Wednesday, 16 October 2019

What Not To Say To Someone Who Is Grieving...



'Please let me know if I can do anything to help?'


A sentence that I have definitely used myself, and I'm sure most people reading this would have as well. Said with the best and kindest intentions, but do you generally hear back with a request of help needed? 

Most likely not. 

I wanted to mention some of the most common phrases that get said to you when you are dealing with a loss or grief, but that are actually not helpful at all and can even sometimes cause upset too. 
These, as with the example above, are never said with ill intent but I thought that it may be helpful to understand, as a friend or colleague perhaps, as to the reasons why you should never use these phrases. 

'Please let me know if I can do anything to help'


Let's begin with my first example, and an absolute classic go-to line, which as I mentioned I have absolutely used myself before. We say this because we are not quite sure what to do, but want to let our friend know that we are around and are happy to help. 
The issue is, this puts the responsibility on the griever to reach out and ask for help. I know firsthand that this is really hard to do. 
You don't want to be a burden, you don't want to seem weak, you don't have the energy to even text back. These are just a handful of reasons. 
Instead, be specific and be practical. 
Offer to pick up some food for them when you are at the supermarket, and just leave it on their doorstep so that they don't have to answer the door. 
Batch cook some meals that they can freeze. 
Ask if they need their dog walking for a few days. 
Or see if they are free on Saturday afternoon for a coffee in town, and you can pick them up. 

Trust me, these will all be so appreciated. 

'I understand how you feel.'


Everyone's loss is completely individual, and it can feel invalidating to try to compare. Especially if you haven't dealt with the loss of a relative that they are dealing with. 
It is wonderful to listen and make them feel comforted, but allow them to share their story without having to include yours. Instead of the word 'understand' you could use 'imagine'. 


'They are in a better place'


No matter the religion or spirituality involved, a griever only wants their lost loved one to still be with them, where they belonged. It is not going to make someone feel happier by telling them that they have now gone to a 'better' place. 
In fact this can sound as though you are devaluing their relationship with their loved one, and also their grief. 
Instead just appreciate the fact that they are suffering right now. 


'We all die eventually, it was going to happen one day'


Stating this obvious fact will make the griever feel as though they don't have a reason to be bereaved. You are taking away their right to feel great loss and sadness. Of course one day we will all leave this earth, but instead just acknowledge how much they must miss them. 


'You seem to be handling this really well'


The smiles that you see may well be a mask to get through the initial days, or they could well be in shock. This observation could again make the griever feel as though they can't open up or that they should be feeling better by now, almost embarrassed that they in fact are not.
There is no time limit on our grief and sadness, and no one should be made to feel as though there should be. 

Nothing at all


It can be really easy to not know what to say....so to just say nothing at all. You might not want to upset them, or to bring up their lost loved one because it will make them think of the grief. 
Well let me tell you something for certain...they shall be thinking of them no matter what. You shall not be reminding them of the loss, and they will already be upset. 
By avoiding them entirely or never mentioning their loved one, this is much worse. 
Don't be afraid of them, remind them of your favourite funny moments together, and share. 
Too many people lose friends whilst grieving because they shy away and don't show up. They are still your friend...be there for them. 


I hope that these little tips may help anyone who is wanting to soothe a friend who is dealing with loss, and if you are nervous of saying the 'wrong' thing then simply just reach out and tell them. Be honest but be there. 


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